The Morning Jolt


Sayonara, Brenda Snipes

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes in Lauderhill, Fla., November 12, 2018. (Carlo Allegri/Reuters )

Making the click-through worthwhile: a surprising and pleasing victory for accountability in Florida, why long lines at a polling place aren’t necessarily a reflection of voter suppression or incompetent management, and the tired whine that insufficient “willpower” or “leadership” is what ails congressional Republicans.

A Victory for Accountability: Brenda Snipes Resigns

My goodness, are we starting this week with some . . . actual accountability in government? Someone did a terrible job, and they’re not merely going on paid vacation — er, “paid leave” — or hunkering down and waiting out the storm? And this is happening in Florida? We are truly entering the season of miracles!

Just hours after finishing a tumultuous election recount, Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes submitted her resignation, ending a 15-year tenure full of botched elections, legal disputes and blistering criticism.

“It is true. She did send it,” said Burnadette Norris-Weeks, an attorney who works as counsel to the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Evelyn Perez-Verdia, a former office spokeswoman who left several years ago, said Sunday evening she was told by people in the office that the letter was sent “to Tallahassee” earlier in the day.

Norris-Weeks said she saw an early draft of the letter. In the version she saw, she said Snipes, 75, expressed a desire to spend more time with her family.

I understand that Snipes said she wanted to spend more time with her “whole family, all two to nine of them, or however many members of my family there may be.”

You may recall that one week ago, Andrea Mitchell of MSNBC declared on-air, “We should also point out that Brenda Snipes in Broward County is a Republican appointed by former governor, then-governor Jeb Bush. So she was put in by a Republican governor after the mess that we all remember from 2000. And she’s hardly a Democratic official, or someone doing the bidding of the Democratic candidates there.”

The only part of that sentence that is true is that she was appointed by Jeb Bush, who appointed Snipes after the previous Broward supervisor of elections, Miriam Oliphant, was suspended for “grave neglect, mismanagement, and incompetence.”

(Oliphant has an amazing tale. She was dismissed in part after the 2002 primary elections in Broward, when “23 polls failed to open by 7 a.m. and 32 polls failed to heed an executive order from the governor’s office to stay open past 7 p.m. so voters could cast a ballot in the problem-plagued election.” After getting dismissed as elections supervisor, the county hired her four years later as a high-school guidance counselor, over 55 other applicants, some who had decades of experience but didn’t even get an interview. Within a year, her salary had more than doubled. She only had a temporary teaching certificate, so she had to take state tests to get a permanent one . . . and she flunked the math test. Yes, the woman who once ran elections in Broward County failed the math test. She was dismissed from the school in 2011.)

Long Lines Aren’t Evidence of Voter Suppression or Incompetent Management

Richard Hasen, writing in Slate:

For three reasons, Democrats should stop with the rhetoric that the race was “stolen,” as Sherrod Brown, Democratic senator from Ohio has said, and they should not follow the lead of Kemp’s Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams, who repeatedly refused to acknowledge Kemp as the “legitimate” winner of the election when questioned Sunday by CNN’s Jake Tapper…

A democratic polity depends on losers accepting election results, even if the election was not conducted perfectly. I would hold “stolen” election rhetoric for conduct even more outrageous than Kemp’s decisions, which, while odious, either have not been found to be illegal or that courts allowed to remain in place for this election.

… Saying Kemp tried to suppress Democratic votes and saying the election was stolen are two different things, and making charges of a stolen election when it cannot be proved undermines Democrats’ complaints about suppressive tactics. If Democrats can’t prove it, some people will think the suppression is no big deal when it really is.

It focuses attention on the wrong question: whether there was enough suppression to change election outcomes. As I’ve long argued, the right question is why the state gets to put stumbling blocks in front of voters—such as onerous voter registration requirements and easy voter-purge rules—without offering a good reason for doing so.

Separately, when you hear complaints about really long lines and waits at particular polling places in the context of how allegedly awful American elections are, a few questions should come to mind.

In some places, you’ve just got a lot of offices and questions on the ballot. My dad worked the polls in Hilton Head, S.C., this year, and folks in Beaufort County were voting for governor and their local U.S. congressman, but also lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, comptroller, agriculture commissioner, and superintendent of public education. Then voters moved on to state-legislature elections. In some localities, the local sheriff is an elected position, as are probate judge, county auditor, county treasurer, county council, local school board, soil and water district commissioners, county bond referendum, and mayor. And South Carolina had a statewide ballot measure proposing changing the position of superintendent of education from an elected position to an appointed position.

All of that turned into a five-page ballot in some jurisdictions, in a community with a lot of elderly voters — the demographic most reliable about coming out to vote in midterm elections. The amount of time an average voter would take at the polling place in South Carolina would be way longer than up here in Virginia, where we only voted for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and two proposed amendments to the state constitution. With long ballots and voter demographics like those, you’re going to end up with a lot of long lines!

To Reach a Destination, It Helps If You Can Figure Out How Far Away It Is

Over at LifeSiteNews, Calvin Freiberger reviews my preview of the House Republican leadership contest between Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan — McCarthy won handily, 159-43 —  and laments that instead of standing athwart history, I merely mumble “whatever.”

Freiberger writes of Jordan’s wish for the Senate to get rid of the filibuster for legislation.

This is another blindingly obvious aspect of leadership: when you’re doing important work only for it to be squandered by colleagues in another department, or in this case another legislative chamber, you confront them about it. You address the problem until it’s resolved one way or the other.

I’m glad this twenty-something is here to explain all of these “blindingly obvious aspects of leadership” to the rest of us. It’s a terrible shame that it never crossed any House Republican’s mind to confront Senate Republicans about the need to abolish the filibuster. It’s another terrible shame that Senate Republicans have never heard these arguments in favor of nuking the filibuster.

Of course, a Google search would reveal that eliminating the filibuster for legislation would take at least 50 votes. Senator Ted Cruz, who supports eliminating the filibuster, told me earlier this year that he thought “about half” of Senate Republicans were willing to vote to get rid of the filibuster. Frieberger’s inspiring call to “address the problem until it’s resolved one way or another” needs to persuade about 25 more Republican senators to get rid of the filibuster. Guess what? It’s been addressed. The filibuster-nukers lost. Those 25 or so Senate Republicans don’t want to get rid of it, because if they lose the Senate in some future election, the filibuster is the only tool they have to slow down or stop the agenda of the Democratic majority. This may be wise or foolish, but you’re unlikely to change the minds of one-quarter of the Senate by wailing that they’re oblivious to those “blindingly obvious aspects of leadership” that you’ve discovered.

Freiberger calls all of this “a damning indictment of the conservative commentariat that such rudimentary concepts are apparently foreign to its upper echelons.” I think that it’s more of a damning indictment that Freiberger doesn’t know what would be required to get rid of the filibuster, and how far away from that goal he is.

Jordan’s made clear that he feels that if the House Republican leader just demonstrated more willpower, the results would be different. As much as I like Jordan, I suspect the problem is less willpower than simple math — there simply aren’t enough Republicans in the Senate and now the House to enact the policies Jordan wants to see enacted. As I wrote last Wednesday, I’m perfectly fine with giving Jordan a chance to take the wheel; maybe he really could generate dramatically different results from sheer force of personality and personal persuasiveness. But the first step to that position of leadership is convincing a majority of his party that he should be the leader. So far, Jordan’s fallen well short of that.

You’ll notice that there’s a narrative that Kevin McCarthy is some sort of hapless Establishment squish with all of the backbone of a Nerf product while Jordan is the heroic defender of conservative principles. Since the beginning of the Trump administration, FiveThirtyEight ranked 97 important votes in the House (leaving out the renaming post offices, etcetera). McCarthy and Jordan voted differently in ten of them, meaning that they voted the same way 87 out of 97 times. Obviously, there’s a difference, but not a glaring difference — yet ConservativeReview ranks Jordan an “A” and McCarthy an “F.”

ADDENDUM: Beto O’Rourke could very well become the Democratic nominee for 2020, as party donors are already gushing about him, comparing him to Robert F. Kennedy, Barack Obama, and Bernie Sanders in this Politico article.

“He’s Barack Obama, but white.” Is there any higher compliment in Democratic circles?


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